He was my first boyfriend. He was my first everything. Up until meeting him, I had no interest in guys. I’m not sure if I was completely turned off by seeing all the women in my family being left by their men, or if I was just focused on other things. I’m not sure if it was awareness or innocence. When we met he was 19 years old and I was 18. We were together for 8 years. Four of those years were full of spontaneous sex, a youthful carelessness, and an exciting recklessness. We really believed we would live forever in youth and in love.
But time passed, responsibilities began to happen and adulthood hit us, almost unexpectedly. Stress began to take over our relationship and we found ourselves having no time for fun and more time for disagreements. We were so frustrated trying to make a name for ourselves in our respective fields, that we took our stress out on each other.
“You never cook.”
“You don’t wash the dishes.”
“I just need to be alone.”
And together, we were alone.
I felt myself losing him. I wasn’t having fun and because he wasn’t around as much, I began to wonder who he was having fun with. He did very little to reassure me and insecurities (as they often do) quickly took over.
One day, he announced he was quitting his job and taking time off to think about what his next step would be. He was a successful chef with many prestigious restaurant openings under his name, so I was surprised he was moving away from a stable, secure job but I supported his decision. In that same conversation, he made sure to clarify that the “time off” he was taking, was from everything and everyone — including me, including us. This broke my heart but because we had been together for 8 years, saw each other through losses and triumphs, and tried our best to preserve the friendship within our relationship, I so wanted to believe in us.
Shortly after the initiation of our “break,” I started to get calls and texts from friends who told me they were seeing him hanging out with an old co-worker of his, Rocky. I met Rocky a few times in the past and actually really liked her. She was a respectable girl with a lot of talents. I appreciated her friendship in his life. I thought she was a good example. I trusted her. Silly me.
Rocky seemed to call him at late hours of the night but because they were in the restaurant industry, I understood there had to be a lot of planning. It wasn’t until I was officially introduced to her as his girlfriend that she seemed to fall back. But my relationship was already in a fragile place that any doubt created a bruise, a dent, a break. We quickly and almost too slowly went from youthful and fun to tired and angry.
Weeks later, I found out that Rocky and Sergio had been seeing each other for the last 6 months. Yes, 6 months! That means that 5 out of 6 six months, he was cheating on me and that “break” he wanted us to take was to explore another woman without the risk of actually losing me. After 8 years, that man resorted to cheating on me with a woman I thought was his friend, a woman I chose to respect, and a woman that reminded me so much of myself.
So naturally, when all this came to light, I went for her. (Ladies, why do we place the target on the other woman, and not the man who was supposed to be taking care of us?) Except, I did it in the most unbothered, nonchalant, prideful way I could. I wrote her about a page’s worth of email about how much she disappointed me, how lost, and how desperate she must’ve been for attention, for approval, and for love that she had to get involved with a man in a relationship. I told her I felt sorry for her and I reminded her that women like her never win. I told her women like her seem to forget that it is a lot less about the man and so much more about the sisterhood. I made sure to remind her that the damage she did was to a woman like her and that one day, that karma will come back to her in the form of a woman like me. Yes, I was angry. I was disappointed and I was disgusted.
I deleted my social platforms, emails and changed my number. I even moved into a new apartment and focused on restructuring my life so that the past would stay in the past. I got a new job at Google, I worked out, ate healthy, and began dating. Life was moving on and I had completely detached from my past, the pain, and the characters. I even started dating an amazing man. He was generous, kind, patient and loving. Three years had gone by and I had no contact with my ex or the girl he cheated on me with. I had found peace. Until one day, the opportunity for real peace came in the rarest form, with the most random messenger.
Earlier, I mentioned that I changed my number. One day, while I was sitting at a Google booth with my new Google friends, talking Google things, I got a text from my old number. It happened because my old number, that now belonged to a new person was still attached to my new email (I changed my email before I did my number) and in my process to delete the old number of my current email address, I must’ve sent some confirmation notice to the old number. Liz (the new owner) texted me explaining that she had my old number and that she received a lot of calls and texts but a handful of texts seemed particularly important and that maybe I should look at them. Assuming the texts were from my ex, I told Liz I wasn’t interested. Liz said: “OK. But it will be healing.”
A couple of weeks later I texted Liz’s number (who I began to refer to as “old me”) and asked her to send me the texts. She quickly replied with about 10 messages from the same person, Rocky. In the form of text messages, all dated the same day, Rocky thanked me for the email I sent her and then apologized for the role she played in my pain. Then, she told me her truths:
“I didn’t know you guys were together. He said you guys were only together like 6 years ago. He told me you guys were a casual thing. Just sex. I really thought he loved me. I honestly didn’t even think you guys were an item. He made you sound obsessive, possessive, jealous, insecure, immature, and crazy. I am so sorry for believing him. I should’ve been defending you. He did it to me too.”
He cheated on her too and when her pain sank in, she thought of me. I think it was in that moment that my healing must’ve begun. Not because she was hurting, or because she received a “karma” I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but because I think an understanding started to sink in. Just like when I received her texts, it began to sink in for me. No one in this world will understand you the way another woman does. Therefore, no one in this world can look out for you the way another woman can.
I found Rocky on Instagram and DMd her to thank her for her texts. We DMd the rest of the evening ( I don’t think either one of us was ready for a call). She told me about how Sergio had actually been cheating on me with her, and on her and me with another woman, Sam. I felt Rocky’s pain. It saddened me so much that she was feeling betrayed and I prayed for her to rise from this unjaded, untainted, and undamaged. I prayed for the woman who I once blamed for causing me the same pain. And in her world, Rocky must’ve been praying for forgiveness for causing another woman that same pain.
I learned that you don’t have to blame a woman for a man’s wrongs. You don’t wish a woman the same pain you survived. When a woman is living the pain you survived, you pray for her triumph. We give birth and raise the world. I know it is our responsibility to start prioritizing our sisterhood and in return, we teach our men to become better, to become healthier.
I know no man will know my story the way a woman will.
I know we are connected through our similar experiences we have with the world and when the world tries to tell us that we are each other’s enemies, it is a lie.
I know I found my healing in the woman my ex cheated on me with and I know I am better for it.